Notwithstanding anti-liquor protests, Odisha relaxes norms for ‘ON’ shops

Bhubaneswar: While women across Odisha have launched a crusade against liquor sale, the Odisha government has relaxed the norms for hotels and bars to serve liquor till 1.30 AM in Bhubaneswar in view of the men’s Hockey World Cup.

According to the new norms, the ‘ON’ shops and bars will be allowed to be kept open till 1.30 AM during national and international mega events.

The new rule will be applicable from November 20 till December 20 in Bhubaneswar owing to the Hockey World Cup 2018 being held in the city, sources said.

The new rules will be applicable in 5 mega cities of the State including Puri during national and international events, informed Excise Commissioner.

Excise Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera said “The change in the norms has been made keeping in view the Hockey World Cup 2018 and other mega events.”

It may be noted that the government has been facing protests from the people and institutions against liquor promotion. Recently, the government had cancelled a beer factory project after felling of tress to set up the factory in Balarampur, Dhenkanal induced public outrage and protests.

On the other hand, the Nisha Nibarana Sangha has protested against the government move.

Padma Charan Nayak, President, Milita Odisha Nisha Nibarana Abhiyan, said “The move is not correct as the government is functioning on the whims of a few. They are setting a bad precedent for the future.”

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The government’s move has also drawn the ire of the opposition parties. Both BJP and Congress came down heavily on the government.

“The government doesn’t need to relax the rule openly as the visitors and players can entertain themselves with drinks at their places. The government is pretending to oppose the beer factory while promoting liquor consumption on the other hand,” Golak Mohapatra, BJP spokesperson said.

Bhibhu Prasad Tarai, President, PCC SC Cell said “The liquor mafia will profit more during the hockey event. The government will collect funds from this mafia and use it for upcoming elections.”

The State government earns revenue of around Rs 3000 crore in a year from liquor trade.